We have always been drawn to birds. Over the years we have had pet parakeets, finches,. ducks. parrots, canaries, and others. And we have always had a strong interest in photography. Yet it was not until relatively recently that we began sharing our love of nature’s “little jewels” with others.
In 1965 we purchased our first camera – a Nikonos – to capture undersea images. During the next ten years, we spent as much of our free time as possible lugging 75 lbs. of SCUBA and camera gear into the ocean. We dove the Pacific waters from Ensenada, Mexico, to Point Lobos in Big Sur, California, along with many trips to Catalina Island. The images that were collected were sold in local art fairs.
By the mid ’70’s, we were spending most of four free time backpacking and birding. We had purchased our first “land” camera – a Canon FTB. For the next several years, we carried this and our growing assortment of lenses up and down the trails of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The addition of a 500mm-f/4.5L lens in 1984, was the start of our focus on birds. In 1995 we introduced our Jewels of Nature Collection of images. In 2001 we introduced the Sierra Scenics Collection.
Since the early ’90’s, we have frequented a variety of bird habitats in California, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Florida to capture images of birds in the native environments. We have become very familiar with most of the well known and many of the not-so-known birding spots in all seasons. By camping in the field, we are able to extend our time in the birds’ habitat, and better understand their daily routines.
Photographing birds is one of the toughest of all photographic pursuits. Birds are small, forcing the photographer to get very close. The photographer must go into the habitat prepared for all possibilities. This often means hauling 70 lbs. of large lenses, cameras, extenders, plus a sturdy tripod, up steep canyons. It is not unusual to sit for hours waiting for a shy bird to land in a clear position that allows his image to be taken. When land animals move away, it is usually possible to follow them; when a bird flies off, he is gone. the resulting image may be the only way that many people will every get to view the shyer species.
Birds rarely pose. They just go about their normal lives, some more shy than others. challenging the photographer to quickly stop their actions with enough of their environment to add meaning and balance to the image. A good image is the result of specialized equipment, specific to the situation, used with knowledge of the desired result.
It might be easier to use a medium other than photography to express the artist’s vision. However, a photograph is still needed by the traditional artist to provide accurate color and proportions. The painter has the advantage without the problems of real life imperfections common in nature. But only a photograph can capture a true moment in time, showing a combined image of bird and habitat together. Occasionally, this combination is captured allowing the viewer to share in the essence of a special living moment. When this happens, it becomes photographic art.